Pete Vanwinkle was sentenced to death by the State of Arizona for a prison murder. According to court documents Pete Vanwinkle was awaiting trial for attempted murder when he murdered his cellmate at the Fourth Avenue Jail. Pete Vanwinkle would be convicted and sentenced to death
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ASPC Eyman, Browning Unit
PO Box 3400
PETE J. VANWINKLE 159162
Florence, AZ 85132
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Pete Vanwinkle was sentenced to death for the murder of Robert Cotton. Vanwinkle was awaiting trial in the Fourth Avenue Jail on charges of attempted 2nd degree murder and misconduct involving weapons. Cotton was in jail awaiting trial on theft charges. On May 1, 2008, Vanwinkle brutally strangled and beat Cotton to death inside his cell. The majority of the murder was captured on the jail’s video surveillance.
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On May 1, 2008, when Maricopa County Jail inmates VanWinkle and Robert were out of their cells for recreation time, jail videos show Robert, who walked with a visible limp, climbing the stairs to the second level of cells. Robert looked backward twice and appeared to talk to VanWinkle.2 When he reached the second tier, Robert stood outside VanWinkle’s cell. VanWinkle ascended the stairs less than a minute later, appearing to speak to Robert, who then walked into the cell.
¶ 3 Before VanWinkle entered his cell, he walked into a shower area next door. A few seconds later, he entered his cell. For about one minute, VanWinkle and Robert stood in the cell outside the view of the jail surveillance camera. When they came back into view, VanWinkle was on top of Robert, hitting him. After a brief struggle, Robert became still.
¶ 4 Then, for approximately eighteen minutes, VanWinkle continued to beat Robert, strangling him, stomping on him, punching him, and jumping up and down on his motionless body. The video reflects that VanWinkle took several breaks to rest and wipe the blood from his hands before resuming the attack.
¶ 5 VanWinkle then dragged Robert’s body from the cell and tried to push it through the railing onto the first level. When he could not do so, VanWinkle went downstairs, got a drink of water, and waited for jail staff to respond. Within minutes they handcuffed VanWinkle and tried unsuccessfully to revive Robert.